Politics of Health Care

How far along are we in making hospitals more ‘senior friendly’?

Being hospitalized can have dramatic impacts on seniors’ wellness, and time spent in hospital contributes to loss of important functions such as strength and mobility – critical to their independence and wellbeing. Camilla Wong, a geriatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto says “hospitalization robs us of the things that are really important for older

Regulating the ‘wild west’ of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes have exploded onto the market in recent years and there are multi-billion dollar questions swirling around them. Advocates say that they offer a safe and effective smoking cessation aid while opponents are concerned that they may erode the success of decades of tobacco reduction efforts. E-cigarettes have the appearance of tobacco cigarettes and simulate

Missing the target on health care performance?

Setting targets has long been a mechanism in industrial psychology to motivate managers and workers to achieve specific organizational objectives. In the last decade, targets have become important methods of driving performance improvement in health care. However, deciding where and when to set targets is a challenge facing health care decision makers. Politics of performance

Canada’s prescription opioid crisis

There is a prescription opioid crisis in Canada. While these drugs are effective in treating acute pain, and pain near the end of life, the evidence to support long-term use in patients with chronic pain is weak, and for many people the harms exceed the benefits. Prescription opioids are also highly addictive and easily misused.

Integrating Physician Assistants in Canada

After several decades working in the Canadian military, Physician Assistants (PAs) are being introduced into provincial health care systems. This year, Alberta launched a two-year demonstration project to integrate PAs into selected clinical practices. About a decade ago ago, PAs were introduced in  Manitoba and Ontario. In Ontario, PAs were part of Ontario’s broader health human resources

Conflict at the end of life: what happens when doctors and families disagree?

Informed consent to medical treatment is one of the foundational pillars of Canadian medical law and the practice of medicine. Before administering a course of treatment, health care professionals are expected to ensure that their patients understand the benefits and risks of each option and that they voluntarily agree to undergo the chosen therapy. In

Restructuring Alberta’s health system

Alberta Health Services has had a tumultuous summer. There have been major changes at the highest levels of administration and governance of the province’s health system. A review of the recent history of restructuring in Alberta’s health system might be helpful to understand the recent changes. Moving towards health regions Alberta was part of the

Family Care Clinics – filling a gap or costly duplication?

During her campaign for reelection in 2012, Alberta premier Alison Redford promised to create 140 Family Care Clinics (FCCs) over three years. She articulated a vision of primary care that would be one-stop, with many different health care providers under one roof. These clinics would have expanded hours to improve patient access, and would focus

How much interaction should medical students have with industry?

Is there any role for industry in medical education?

A drug company sales representative stands in front of a class of University of Toronto medical students and delivers her well-rehearsed sales pitch about the benefits of her company’s birth control pill. Hold on: Isn’t this sort of interaction between the pharmaceutical industry and med students supposed to be forbidden because of concerns about conflicts

Ontario Citizens Council: a failed experiment or a success in the making?

Ontario Citizens Council: a failed experiment or a success in the making?

Decisions about health policy often involve difficult trade-offs. This is especially true when assessing new health technologies and medications, where funding one item can mean not being able to fund another. These decisions often force policy makers to go beyond scientific considerations of a drug’s effectiveness, and address broader ethical and social considerations. Recognizing that

Expert advice for Ontario Ombudsman on his bid for jurisdiction over hospitals and long term care facilities

Expert advice for Ontario Ombudsman on his bid for jurisdiction over hospitals and long term care facilities

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin’s bid for jurisdiction to investigate complaints about patients’ experiences at the province’s hospitals and long-term care facilities has support from a wide range of patient advocacy groups. Marin stresses that his counterparts in all the other provinces have jurisdiction to investigate these types of complaints, although the scope of their powers

Patient-oriented research in Canada: what progress has been made?

PCORI, SPOR, Patient oriented research

The governments of Canada and the United States have patient-oriented research initiatives underway, which share the goals of supporting research that will improve health care systems and directly benefit patients.  However, the mandate, structure and funding of these initiatives differ significantly, with the United States accomplishing a great deal in a relatively short period of

How ‘public’ are hospital performance ratings?

Hospital Reporting

Although there is lots of talk about making measures of health system performance available to the public, the reality often falls short of the aspirations. Not only are these measures often difficult for public users to understand and access; evidence suggests that they have little impact.  In April of this year, the Canadian Institutes of Health

Planning for disaster: the state of emergency preparedness in Ontario

Recent events in Ontario have focused public attention on emergency response capacity.  Making the case to continue to invest in services and programs available to respond in an emergency is a challenge in the current fiscal climate.  Elliot Lake is a picturesque mining town of 11,000 residents on the north shores of Lake Huron, located

Lower pay hampers nurse practitioner recruitment in primary care

Nurse practitioners are a key plank of government efforts to improve access to primary care. However, a continuing gap in pay and benefits for nurse practitioners who choose to work in primary care compared to those who work in hospitals, limits recruitment and retention to community settings. From a zippy online campaign to an economist-authored

Perspective on payment negotiation for Ontario’s doctors

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) and Ministry of Health and Long Term Care negotiate fee schedules on a four year basis.  This year, the process has garnered a great deal of attention as negotiations broke down, and the Ministry of Health unilaterally imposed fee reductions in some areas.  Understanding the history of bargaining between doctors